“And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn."
- Luke 2:7
Do you collect special Christmas ornaments and other items for your home?
Last week between writing stints, and while sorting through decorations, I discovered that we own seven nativity sets. Seven! And every size and style.
There is also a collection of angels, snowmen and reindeer!
Perhaps, like you, I set out the nativities first, often before the tree and the wreaths are hung. And as I do, I sing: "When blossoms flowered 'mid the snows upon a winter night. Was born the Child, the Christmas rose, the King of Love and Light," from "Gesu Bambino," one of my all-time favorite Christmas carols (original lyrics are Italian). It is a special time, even a reverent one. And I am once again awestruck by our heavenly Father's lavish love in sending His Son to this dark and sinful planet, to each of us whose hearts are open to receive this best-ever gift.
So, the nativity sets we carefully place in strategic spots in our homes are a mere reenactment of that tender, yet miraculous moment in all of history. A precious reminder and loving symbol of what we carry deep in our hearts all year long.
Wishing you a blessed Advent Season,
Here's a special offer for you from Amish Cheer One FREE "Snow Globe Nativity" card with any purchase of "Sleigh Ride" cards through Saturday, 12/12/20 at 11 PM Central Time when this offer expires. The "Snow Globe Nativity" card folds flat for mailing convenience, all handcrafted by my sister, Barbara, and me. Enjoy! Shop at: www.amishcheer.com
I am also very busy revising my Fall 2021 novel, The Beginning, currently, while making notes for future novels set in Amish country. Thanks very much for being such wonderfully devoted readers, so encouraging, and just plain sweet, too. My best wishes for this Christmas, and always!
“So commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these words of mine…Teach them to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates."
- Deuteronomy 11:18-20a
I still remember my mother’s morning ritual when I was growing up—of waking with a prayer on her lips, of reading the scripture from her thin, black New Testament, of cooking eggs or oatmeal while singing a hymn or worship song; and after breakfast, kissing my sister, Barbara, and me good-bye, before we left to walk to school. Daddy was usually occupied with his pastoral work early mornings, so it was my mother’s ritual that I observed. And one that I, too, have embraced through the years.
So, this morning while preparing my breakfast tea, I accidently dropped a favorite pottery mug. Stunned at seeing the shattered pieces, I carefully cleaned up the mess and realized that I have been enjoying a large cup of hot tea every morning for decades. Another one of my mother’s morning customs passed down to me. That first taste of tea, along with soft worship music, makes the day come alive for me. My senses are awakened, and my heart is wide open to God’s plan for my writing day. And I find myself counting blessings, among them my faithful readers. After publishing for twenty-seven years, I am humbled and honored that you continue to follow me on this journey! How blessed I am by your prayerful support and encouraging remarks about The Stone Wall, my latest novel. Most of all, I’m grateful that you openly share your prayer needs with me, and be assured that I lift each one to our heavenly Father.
During this month of gratitude, and always, I count the divine gifts of forgiveness and salvation at the top of my list of unmerited blessings. And for the precious family God certainly hand-picked for me, when I dreaded not having children, as well as the longtime friendships through the years (some since childhood).
There are also the small graces. A bluebird perched near my office window just now, peeping in as if to remind me, “God sees…He cares,” and the pine breezes that whisper, “He is with you…He is for you,” and the thoughtful fans who write, “I pray each day as you create your stories.”
I also count the blessing of living in America, where believers can gather to worship, where people can vote freely, and where cherished morning rituals can still be passed down from one generation to the next.
May this special month be one of rejoicing in God’s goodness and providence. Thanksgiving blessings!
On the book-writing side of things, I’m working through revisions for The Beginning and enjoying the process of breathing even more life into the characters I’ve come to know so well. Story people such as Ella Mae Zook (the “Wise Woman”), Bishop John and Mary Beiler, and a new cast of characters, too. Watch for the cover reveal in a few months—I think you’ll love what we’re creating!
“You visit the earth and water it, You greatly enrich it; The river of God is full of water; You provide their grain, For so You have prepared it.
You water its ridges abundantly, You settle its furrows; You make it soft with showers, You bless its growth.
You crown the year with Your goodness, And Your paths drip with abundance.
They drop on the pastures of the wilderness, And the little hills rejoice on every side. The pastures are clothes with flocks; The valleys also are covered with grain; They shout for joy, they also sing."
- Psalm 65:9-13
Have you ever wondered why grass and trees are green, and the sky and ocean are blue? The colors green and blue are restful to the eye and bring a sense of tranquility...and even hope.
Recently, Dave and I traveled to Colorado's high country in search of aspen gold...and a little time away from work. Our first glimpse of golden brilliance was in Woodland Park, and then higher, on Highway 67, toward Cripple Creek.
Aspens quaking in the breeze created a unique sight, one that was restful and calming, and we marveled at God's handiwork as we hiked into the woodlands at 9,000 feet above sea level. Taking a momentary respite can be a tranquil balm to all of us. Walking in nature while communing with our Savior is refreshing and invigorating, and something many of us often crave.
Nature's beauty reveals important aspects about our heavenly Father. He is caring and loving, all-powerful, in charge of this planet, and full of divine glory. My body and spirt were renewed while surrounded by the warm rays of the sun, the glistening white bark of the aspens, and the resplendent gold leaves everywhere. And as I walked, my heart embraced the peace.
This autumn season, as nature sings the glory of our great God, let's honor Him with the praise due to His name, and take time to rededicate our lives to His purpose.
A blessed and inspiring October to you!
Also, I have, at this writing, completed my first draft of the Fall 2021 novel, The Beginning, a standalone novel set in Hickory Hollow, (Ella Mae Zook, the "Wise Woman," is featured). I am also busy making notes for my Fall 2022 novel and promoting my latest novel, The Stone Wall, as well as answering reader-mail, of course.
"For our present troubles are small and won't last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don't look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever." - 2 Corinthians 4:17-18
I'm sure you've heard it said by friends or family: "I've hit a wall with the socially-distancing thing. I just can't take it anymore!" Or, maybe, you feel that way yourself. These are unprecedented times, to be sure. But, remember that God sees and cares. The way things are now are fully known to our heavenly Father. And He knows how we feel...and how we fret. The glories and reward that await us outweigh anything we're suffering now. God is with us, for us, and cheering us onward with eternity in view.
This being the first day of September, I brought out some of my autumn decorations (yes, already) and was surprised to feel the definite chill in the air today. Typically, I would be packing and preparing my presentations for my fall book tour. With Covid concerns, I'm happy to promote the upcoming September 8 release of The Stone Wall via social media and other safe ways, such as talking about the connection between my Amish Cheer Cards (amishcheer.com) and one of my Amish characters in this particular book. Feel free to take a look at the website to see the array of hand-crafted Amish-related cards (ten currently!). You and Sadie Flaud may just have something in common when it comes to spreading cheer!
Also, a big shout out to Christianbook for partnering with my publisher in offering a BOGO for your order of The Stone Wall in paperback, and receiving a free copy of The First Love. A really wonderful deal--I'm so pleased! Simply go to www.christianbook.com for this terrific offer!
For those who've asked about my 2021 novel, the title is The Beginning, and I'm nearly finished with the first draft. Thanks for your prayers, as always, and your keen interest in my work. Our decades-long friendship is a balm during these rough waters as we pray for each other and look for ways to encourage each other, as well.